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GEOG 3822 Geography of China


Travis Klingberg, PhD

Email: tklingberg@Colorado.EDU


This course is divided into four parts, which roughly follow a chronology from China’s past to present, and shift from an early focus on the state to a concluding focus on Chinese society:

  • Part 1: Foundations – We will briefly explore some basic aspects of China’s history, language, and natural environment that will be helpful in the rest of the course. Then we will look at a few ways of thinking about China regionally. Our goal in this part is to appreciate China’s impressive historical continuity, its great diversity, and to get right to work dispelling the myth that China is a uniform, homogenous country.
  • Part 2: Territorializing China – We will spend three weeks focusing on the political geography that has shaped modern China. Our goal is to analyze some of the specific changes and events that made China the nation we know today, and to challenge the notion that China (like any nation) is not a naturally-occurring thing, but the culmination of a specific political history.
  • Part 3: Urban and rural China – We will spend about three weeks examining the essential relationship between China’s cities and countryside since the Communist Party came to power in 1949. Our goal is to understand how the state governed urban and rural areas differently, before and after reforms began in 1979, and what effects this had by the end of China’s tumultuous 20th century.
  • Part 4: Geographies of Chinese life – We will conclude the course with a topical look at contemporary Chinese society, and some of the major issues – good and bad – that China faces today. We will touch on migration, the environment, and the Internet, among other topics. Our goal is to not simply better understand what is happening in China today, but also to apply what you’ve learned about China so far and to begin to interpret a broader set of topics from geographic perspective.


By the end of this course you should be able to:

  1. Describe some of the important facts about China’s ancient and imperial historical geography,
  2. Explain China’s major regional characteristics in terms of culture and natural environment,
  3. Articulate how China shows both historical continuity and great diversity,
  4. Summarize how China’s center and its periphery were each important in territorializing China,
  5. Explain how the state governed China’s urban and rural areas differently in the Mao era and in the reform era, and
  6. Analyze, in a short video presentation, an event or issue happening in contemporary China using geographic perspectives.


All readings, video segments, and other materials for this course will be provided on Desire2Learn (D2L), CU’s online course management platform.


online participation (discussion, news commentary): 40%
semester project: 30%
quizzes: 5%
mid-term exam: 10%
final exam: 15%


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